Why Get a Doctorate of Nursing DNP Degree?

Only 1% of nurses in this country have a doctoral degree. However, the IOM (Institute of Nursing) have released The Future of Nursing report, created together with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in which they summarized the findings of their two year study in the field of health care and nursing. A key finding was that nurses need to be able to take on more responsible positions. Additionally, the report had concluded that there should be twice as many doctorate graduate nurses by 2020. To achieve this, at least 10% of all BSN graduates have to commit to studying towards an MSN (or preferably a DNP or PhD) within five years of their initial graduation.

Higher education can seem daunting to a lot of people. However, the demand for people with this type of education is very high. There is an extreme shortage of nurses across the board in almost every state in our country. One of the most significant shortages is in nurse educators, which means that there simply aren’t enough people around to train the nurses that are needed today. Indeed, thousands of potential nurses each year are turned away because there simply is no space to educate them. The results of this could be catastrophic.

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Featured DNP Programs

  • Simmons College's online Post-MSN to DNP program is designed for board-certified APRNs who have already earned their MSN degree. The post-MSN to DNP prepares nurses to become leaders in a variety of health settings, influence health care systems and policies, and improve patient outcomes. With full-time and part-time options available, this program can be completed in as little as 2 years.
  • Sacred Heart University offers a CCNE-Accredited Online Post-Master's Doctor of Nursing Practice.

What Is the DNP?

DNP stands for Doctor of Nursing Practice. It is a terminal degree that looks at how diseases progress from a clinical perspective. The exact curriculum of a DNP varies depending on the school and chosen specialization. However, it will almost always include diagnostics, advanced practice and disease treatment. Essentially, DNP graduates are able to become independent practitioners. There are also strong links between the DNP and other types of scientific fields such as medicine, psychology or dentistry.

While exact job titles vary, a number of descriptions are found throughout the country. These are the Nurse Practitioner or NP (with several dozen different specializations), the certified nurse midwife or CNM, the certified registered nurse anesthetist or CRNA and the clinical nurse specialist or CNS. Around 52% of all nurse anesthetist programs currently award the DNP. The other 48% award the Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) instead.

How Much Can You Earn?

The salary for someone who has earned a DNP will vary. A Nurse Researcher, for instance, earns between $95,000 and $100,000 per year. Nurse educators traditionally earn the least, whereas nurse anesthetists earn the most. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a state by state breakdown of average salaries for advanced practice nurses. Additionally, the 2013 National Salary Survey reported that salaries are rising across the board. It also reports on differences between gender and other demographic factors.

What Are the Pros and Cons?

American Nurse Today has highlighted the pros and cons of the DNP as follows.

Pros:

  • You will become a true critical thinker, which is needed in the industry.
  • You can improve clinical practice.
  • You will help develop new leaders in the field of nursing.
  • You will promote both scholarship and evidence based practice.
  • You will help address the nursing shortage.
  • You can help improve academic tenure.
  • Interdisciplinary practice will be improved.
  • You will improve the view others have of advanced practice nursing.
  • You will ensure that you have knowledge not just of clinical practice, but also of the business and management elements of health care.
  • You will turn the nursing profession into one that is like other medical degrees, upholding the same standards, similar to dentistry (DDS), medicine (MD), psychology (PsyD), pharmacy (PharmD), audiology (AudD) or physical therapy (DPT).

Cons:

  • Some suggest the DNP will start to change into a full research degree, effectively mimicking the Ph.D.
  • It takes many years to complete the DNP, which could place undue hardship on a nurse.
  • Resistance to proposed independence of nurses with an advanced practice degree will continue to exist.
  • It could mean further health care reforms, forcing changes to legislation, standards, certification requirements and regulations.
  • It may increase divisiveness and conflict within the nursing profession.
  • It may not promote academic tenure and promotion.
  • It could marginalize those nurses who prefer to stay within pure clinical, bedside practice.
  • It could mean that not enough energy is spent trying to resolve the acute nursing shortage that exists now.
  • Educational institutions will have to resolve the conundrum of having to create more nursing educators without having any nurse educators on staff at present, thereby forcing students to be turned away from their degree.

Why Is It a Good Career Move?

  • You will be able to teach the next generation of nurses. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has been reporting on the extreme shortage in nursing educators for some time now.
  • You will be able to ensure that clinical care meets the highest standards of quality.
  • You want to make sure the profession of nursing is able to advance by researching new methods of care and delivery methods.
  • You will be able to improve health care as a whole. The IOM has officially recommended that nurses are able to take the lead on collaborative efforts of improvement.
  • You will be able to make health care more profitable. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the Healthcare Reforms, hospitals and clinics are finding it increasingly difficult to manage and balance their books. As someone with a DNP, you will be able to make a real difference in budgeting, ensuring quality of care is not compromised by lowering costs.
 

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